Teachers Possibly Biased Against Overweight Students, Research Suggests, And That Needs To Change ASAP
As has long been suspected, teachers do not check their institutional prejudices at the schoolhouse door. Case and point: research that suggests teachers are biased against overweight students, despite the fact they are no worse students than thin students. But fatphobia totally isn't a real thing, guys!
According to several studies, students who are overweight tend to receive lower grades, but there is no corresponding evidence to show that being overweight is linked to being less intelligent. This of course begs the question, why the lower grades? Well, based on The Conversation's analysis of several studies involving school children in both the U.S. and U.K., it seems the answer is that teachers think that overweight students are less intelligent, and dole out grades based on this perception.
They note that there are other potential culprits, such as the possibility that academic performance for some overweight students might decrease due to bullying. But overall, there's plenty to suggest that teacher biases play a big part. As they point out, there are plenty of studies that show teachers do tend to buy in to anti-fat stereotypes. And according to a recent study out of Harvard, weight gain among elementary school students "was significantly associated with worsening teacher perceptions of academic ability for both boys and girls, regardless of objectively measured ability."
So what does all this mean? Well it's worth pointing out that there don't seem to be studies that are specifically trying to determine whether teacher biases are the cause of lower grades among overweight children, and so it's impossible to say with certainty that this is a definite or statistically significant cause until the matter is further investigated. But based on The Conversation's survey of the existing research, it seems this is a question that researchers should seek to specifically address.
As they point out, overweight individuals tend to have fewer overall opportunities throughout their lives, and if that trend begins in childhood with teachers who give children a mistakenly low impression of their own achievement, then we need to start addressing that and making sure that all children have equal opportunities from the beginning.
A person's weight has nothing to do with their intelligence. Being overweight doesn't mean you're stupid; being thin doesn't mean you're smart. Intelligent people come in all shapes and sizes, despite widespread cultural myths about fat people as "lazy" or "dumb." And teachers should treat all their students accordingly.